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The Hope of Fans

Giants Clinch for World Series

Not long ago (on October 6th, to be exact) I was lucky enough to be at Game 3 of the NLDS to root for my San Francisco Giants. Before the game, my brother and I were in the Giants Dugout store making our way through the throngs of people picking up, considering, then discarding all the NLDS merchandise that was available now that we’d made it into the divisional series against the Nationals after a some-say-unlikely wild-card win against the Pirates who seemingly had our number all season.

Many of us looked at the NLDS merch and set it back down again. There was a common theme among shoppers: “Eeeh. I’m going to wait until there’s something ELSE to buy.” “I don’t want to buy divisional stuff.” “Let’s wait, honey.” After so many fans set NLDS gear down in favor of standard Giants shirts and hats and jackets, a man behind me remarked loudly: “Giants fans are so spoiled. They don’t even want to by NLDS stuff because they want to go farther. NLCS. World Series. So spoiled. You should feel lucky to be here at all.”

I turned to him and said: “This is not because we are spoiled. This is because we have hope. Hope that we will get farther. A belief that we can do more than what is expected of us.” He smiled. Nodded. Seemed to get it.

And here we are: tonight at 5:07pm the San Francisco Giants play in Game 1 of the World Series.

My oh my aren’t we glad we didn’t settle for feeling lucky enough just to be in the NLDS? Aren’t we glad we thought we could do more? Aren’t we glad we hoped for greatness even in the face of so many injuries and challenges? In the face of all who said we couldn’t do it. Not this year. Not after falling so far back. Not after losing to the Dodgers 17-0 (I was lucky enough to be at that game and I’ll proudly wear that painful badge with pride). Not after facing the hardest path through a wild-card game.

As I’ve said all season: we just need one chance, one way to get into the dance. Once you’re there, it’s what you do with that chance. We beat the Pirates and two series later, we are at the series of all series.

I don’t need to draw all the obvious life parallels and lessons and cliche takeaways. You get the point. Hope is a powerful thing. Perseverance has magical powers. The collective rooting of fans for a team that is collectively giving it all they have is  an honor to play a bit part in – no matter how bit it is. You can call it “just sports” or “just a game” and tell me none of it matters. But it does. All the lessons we learn here matter. Every last one of them. Never allow yourself to be counted out. Never settle for NLDS.

(Image via. David J. Phillip/AP)


Farewell Candlestick

Farewell CandlestickThree days from now, I get to play a bit part in the new era of Niners football by attending the first-ever 49ers game at Levi’s Stadium. It doesn’t feel right to move on until I say one final word (or many) about Candlestick Park.

How many times can I say goodbye to this lady of so many childhood memories? I said goodbye during Navarro’s “Pick at the Stick” and I snuck in another goodbye for a Montana to DeBartolo TD at Legends of Candlestick. It has been an honor to be a fan at this park for the San Francisco Giants for so many years and the 49ers for all the games of my lifetime so far. To be a fan of both teams in this stadium has been filled with unabashed joy and heartache – both linger in equal measure to this day. This place gave my family, friends and I so much happiness for so many years and I am wistful that many are no longer here to enjoy the next phase.

Thank you Candlestick Park, thank you Giants, thank you 49ers, from the bottom of my heart. This park and your heart and your toughness and your unwillingness to give up in the face of crazy opposition have given me irreplaceable family memories and life lessons. I can’t wait for what’s ahead. On to a new chapter…

Photo taken as I walked away from the last, last, last event I attended – Legends of Candlestick.


Any Day Could Be a No-Hitter Day

Any Day Could Be a No-Hitter Day

Tim Lincecum hit a no-hitter on Wednesday. The game started like any other. Lincecum went about his business like any other day he would be starting. Did his warm-ups, started the first inning. And the second and the third. Got a few strike-outs, but nothing out of the ordinary. He went about his pitching as usual.

But this day was special and it unfolded before our eyes, though we had no inkling something historic was about to happen.

How many days have we all woken up ho-hum? Just another day, have a lot to get done, time to get at it? And yet the day became something special and we were there to witness it because we were paying attention. Timmy’s no-no reminded me that ANY day has the potential to be truly special. ANY day has the potential to be a no-hitter day.

What changes if we think that every morning when we wake up?

Image via.


Pursue Joy

Pursue Joy

Today is my 40th birthday. There is much to be said about the preceding years. The lessons learned. The moments of struggle, the moments of great happiness. The incredible people I’ve met along the way and the many I’ve lost far too soon.

I could write whole chapters on all this (and I am, elsewhere, stay tuned) but today it amounts to this: I am who I am because of the experiences of the last forty years.

On a day such as this it’s impossible to not only acknowledge all that has come before, but to think about what lies ahead. What might the next forty years of my life look like?

After careful thought, I’ve come to this: I want more joy in my life.

That is not to say I want to work less hours or less passionately. I am lucky to do work I truly believe in (finally, after so many years of soul-selling) and I can’t believe I get to wake up every morning and do that work. I don’t mean that I’ve somehow led a life without joy. I don’t mean that I want to dramatically alter the direction of my life (though more vacations and more writing should certainly figure in) or that I’m somehow off-track.

What I mean is: there are moments in each day where we have a choice. A choice to get amped up navigating the mundane struggle of daily life. To get crazy frustrated when people don’t believe in the same brand of excellence that you do. To lose your mind when LA traffic ensnares you. To get overwhelmed with the many small decisions that must be made. To get overwhelmed with the very big and very serious decisions that must be made (or that life has unceremoniously made for you.) To worry about the metrics of your business, of your finances, the well-being of your loved ones, the state of the nation, the state of the ozone layer. To get wrapped up in concerns about success and the likelihood of fulfilling all your dreams and what it will mean or not mean if you get there or you don’t. We can choose to let all of this make up our days. Or we can choose joy.

We can seek out joy in the midst of all this. In the midst of LA traffic. In the midst of crazy news about our government. In the midst of heroic and inspiring struggles by those close to us and those we admire and root for from afar. In the midst of crazy HOA meetings in which board members treat you like a fifth grader (truly dizzying, I have to say). In the midst of eight years of roof leaks that your developer won’t fix. In the midst of daily injustices that build up, that create smooth grooves on your soul from repeated wear over time. In the midst of terrible news from nearly every country, every time you see someone suffering, every time you pass a man on the street who needs your help, every time you see a smart young girl who isn’t afforded to same opportunities as her male counterpart. We can be weighed down by it all or we can choose to seek out the joy, though it may glimmer faintly in the distance more often than not.

A little over a year ago, I began hashtagging certain tweets with #pursuejoy as a way to commit myself to seeking out those moments in each day. Sometimes it’s easy. There are days where it all flows and you find much joy all around you. Other days, finding a sliver of joy to celebrate is like groping in the dark without adequate tools, without a sense of where the treasure is hiding. But I am world-weary and, you guessed it, I stopped finding the #pursuejoy moments in my days.

So here’s the deal: I pledge to find at least one #pursuejoy moment every day for the entire year that I am forty. I encourage you to do the same. We can worry about the next year, next year. For now, let’s find a way to do great work, to support the people we love, to help those in need, to do all we can to change the world around us…but to find joy while doing so. And if we can’t find the joy? Let’s create it.


Image via.

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Bold Moves

As we enter the NFL free agency period, I’m ready for some splashy moves (this morning’s news of the Percy Harvin trade to Seattle comes to mind; Niners better sort it out during free agency and the draft) and my “whoa” antennae is up as I note some bold moves (note that the formal definition of “bold” is not about a good move or the right approach, but “showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit”) in other industries:

  • Amazon Reaches to Lock Up .Book Domain – And other bookish domains such as .author and .read This is just. Wow. Bold. And overreaching. Ricardo Bilton at Venture Beat offers a succinct glimpse at what would be at stake if such a thing happened: “To use an obvious example, imagine typing ‘LeanIn.book’ and being directed to Amazon’s listing for the book. It’s a powerful branding tool.” More to the point: “Apple, for instance, probably shouldn’t own the rights to .movie, and .app shouldn’t fall into the hands of a company like Google.” Indeed.
  • Sheryl Sandberg Launches LeanIn.Org – Setting aside the hullabaloo surrounding Sheryl’s book and the talk of her (and Marissa Mayer’s) position of privilege (and so how dare she offer insight to working women, so the meme goes), it’s not her book that’s bold but the launch of LeanIn.org, which aims to “offer women the encouragement and support to lean in to their ambitions” that has me sitting up and taking notice. Reminds me of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. Yes, it was a book but it has become a powerful online community that extends far beyond. Will be interesting to see how Sandberg’s bold move plays out over the next few years and if it can increase the number of women in leadership positions. I’ve just joined a LeanIn Circle so, there you go. Hook, line…
  • Google and Adidas Create a Talking Shoe for Fitness Motivation – As the health device market goes bonkers and funding for health startups gets even crazier, Google and Adidas do something that seems a bit retro. The talking shoe? Really? Since Nike+ launched the in-shoe sensor YEARS ago, shoes have been the last place digital health startups are trying to place sensors. Your clothing, your waist, your wrist. But back to shoes again? Hmmm. Also a bold move. Will be very interesting to see if this pans out in what feels like the first mile of what promises to be a 100-mile desert trek over the next few years.

Perfection vs. Excellence

So you know I’ve got a thing for excellence. And it seems I like to make my case for excellence using football analogies, which is fitting since I’m a football nut. Yesterday, I came across Greg Cosell’s great piece on the Evolution of NFL Offense (a highly recommended read for football fans) and one quote (attributed to Vince Lombardi) struck me as exactly what I’ve always been trying to say about excellence but have never been able to express as succinctly:

“We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.

Yes, Vince, yes. THIS. A thousand times this.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the perfection game. Or to realize it’s not achievable and adopt a ho-hum approach or an “it is what it is” approach to work and life and all we hope to accomplish. But when you consider that in pursuing perfection we might achieve excellence – that sounds exactly right to me. And something worth chasing.


Our Fitness Devices & Disparate Data

At the Digital Health Summit during CES last week, I had the chance to listen in on some incredible speakers talk about a very real challenge we face as more and more of us track all our runs and workouts on our FitBits, our Nike+ Fuel bands and our Jawbone Ups: how to ensure that all this data ends up in a place that is most easily accessible to us and in a way that can be useful to us long-term?

It’s all fine and well that I once used my FitBit to track steps and sleep patterns. But it doesn’t motivate me in quite the same way that my Nike+ Fuel band (ever present in every meeting, always reminding me I’ve not yet met my goal) does. Neither device, however, tracks my heart rate during runs and helps me understand true calories burned or how quickly I ran my last mile. I have my Polar FT40 watch for that. So that’s me – three devices, three different data sets, none of them talk to each other. Imagine if I had diabetes to track, medicine to regularly take, a doctor’s prescribed FitnessGlo regimen to work in as well? Where would all this data live and how could I access it in a way that was meaningful and actionable?

This was a topic of serious discussion during many of the digital health panels and though no final conclusions were reached, I feel we’re at a VHS/Betamax standards moment with device APIs. We must arrive at some standard way to share all the data in a patient/customer/user dashbaord. But who sets these standards? Who pays for them to be set? Who enforces them?

These early conversations remind me a lot of the publishing world fumbling toward a better understanding of how eBooks should be delivered across various reading devices. To DRM/not DRM? Nook? Kindle? iPad? My library of books in a Kindle/Apple + Open Source cloud that I can’t quite sort out and don’t have time to address. Sound familiar?

People always ask me why I spend so much time at publishing conferences when I’m no longer properly (if I ever was) in that world. I find that so many of the issues that one industry grapples with (MP3.com was one of my first clients…the music industry made all the big mistakes well before books did or health devices will) apply directly to another industry in ways “insiders” of the industry either can’t see or don’t want to admit.

And so, where are we? We’re at least having the conversation. It will be interesting to see where it goes.


Fit Life

I’ve worked some crazy hours in my life at some crazy jobs. I’ve been in some very stressful boardrooms with uber-stressed executives. I’ve been an on-again off-again runner throughout my life. I’ve been thin and then not and then thin and not throughout my life. I’ve struggled, as an athlete, with feeling good in my body that did not look like the “ideal” bodies we see in magazines but was stronger, more muscular.

I’ve been the woman working too much to find a balance between work and working out. I’ve been the one who pulls at her clothes uncomfortably during a meeting wishing my skirt wasn’t as tight as it was, wishing I could find time for myself to workout, to feel better, to be stronger. To sweat away the stress. I’ve been the woman who wonders how I can manage it, with everything else I want to do in my life. I’ve been the woman who has tried all sorts of silly things to make the skirt less tight and the balance more…balanced.

In short, I get it. I have seen it up close. In so many people I’ve worked with. I have been there, too. I am, on some days, still very much there. That’s why I’m thrilled to be the CEO of FitnessGlo. It’s an online community for women to workout and celebrate their strength in the bodies they have right now. It fits into the busiest of schedules. It caters to all fitness levels. It gives you the space and time to take care of yourself, to get strong and healthy, so you can accomplish all the other things you want to accomplish in your life. There are no big questionnaires to fill out, no measurements to enter. Simply sign up, show up and work out. Wherever you are, whenever you want, for as much (or as little) time as you have.

I’ve had the good fortune throughout my career to work with several health and wellness companies from Jenny Craig and 24 Hour Fitness to California Avocados, ASICS and ReadyPac salads. This is a natural progression for me in many ways and I’m very excited about all we can accomplish at FitnessGlo. From time to time, I’ll be writing a column about all the challenges we face trying to be the best we can be as women. They are included here if you’d like to follow along:

  • You Are Amazing – “I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it takes to achieve your dreams and how easy it is to let the crazy rhythm of a day or week or month (heck, even year!) get you off track. I do it all the time. I start the week with the best of intentions. I want to be great at my job, I want to workout regularly, I want to spend time with my family, I want to move some big projects forward, I want to make time for some of the creative pursuits that nourish me and somewhere in there I want to have a little fun and find a way to not take it all so seriously. Great plan, right? Until Monday comes and the day is crazier than expected. Then Tuesday…”
  • The Healthy Company We Keep – “I’m in San Francisco this week and I notice something peculiar every time I’m here. I exercise more. For my last few trips, I assumed it was an aberration. But after many visits in the past several months, there’s no denying it: something about San Francisco makes me get up earlier and workout longer. Outside. Despite the weather. So what is this magic formula? It’s all those people running by out my window. Everywhere you go, you can’t escape it…” [click to continue…]

Brand Frequency

Great mini-interview with Marc Shillum from Method about how brands, when launching, often think small and find themselves needing to reinvent as they grow. He talks about how a brand must have “multiple, smaller iterations of a single big idea in order to achieve relevancy in the digital age.”

I like his thoughts on consistency (once the much-ballyhooed mark of a great brand) vs. relevancy in today’s digital world and, as I spend so much of my time crafting stories for brands to connect to their customers, this is the money quote for me:

“Making a product interesting and connecting people to it on an emotional level is paramount. Taking systematic minds that live in the engineering world, or interaction design or product design world, and helping them understand the power of storytelling and the power of emotional connection is the key.”

It’s worth a quick read. If that whets your appetite and you’d like more, I highly recommend Airbnb Founder Joe Gebbia’s talk on The Power of Story.


Your Customer as Yourself

While my professional past includes many cool startup clients from long, long ago (remember MP3.com?) much of my early career was heavily focused on automotive clients. I had the distinct pleasure of working with Lexus on what became their “Customer as Your Guest” approach to customer service — during the sales process and beyond. The concept was simple: treat your customer as you would a guest in your home. Take care of them. Listen to them. Anticipate what they might need. Make them feel comfortable. Make them feel at home.

Aside from car quality, safety and performance features, this “Customer as Your Guest” philosophy truly set a standard in excellence in the auto industry. The experience of buying a car was elevated. The way you were treated was just as legendary as the car you were buying. JD Power surveys raved about this approach. Consumer Reports consumers were thrilled. Every other car manufacturer quickly jumped on the “we care about our customers” bandwagon and I spent the next several years working on similar programs for top luxury car brands. The level of customer care during the sales process and during service appointments was elevated in a way it never had been before. It led to more car sales, more repeat customers (the holy grail!) and customers so happy they told everyone they knew about it and referred even more business to the dealership that “really took care of us.”

This idea is not revolutionary. But companies who make it their business to be that gracious to customers are revolutionary, even in today’s all-transparent, a-customer-can-complain-publicly-about-you-at-any-time world. Why is truly great customer service still so awe-inspiring when I was working on those programs nearly 20 years ago? Because so many companies don’t care. And it appalls me.

I’ve recently had several brilliant and shockingly awful customer service experiences in a very compressed time frame. I’ve been turning these experiences over in my mind and I’d like to share each of them with you over the next few weeks. The net result of these experiences — in such stark contrast to each other — has made me revisit the Lexus ‘Customer as Your Guest” program and wonder if even that is not enough. I’m convinced we’d be treated better as customers — and that companies would have a much greater chance of thriving — if they treated every customer the way they would expect to be treated themselves.

Do you treat your clients the way you want to be treated as a client? Do you deliver the exact same kind of service you expect of others? We’re all human (and I have many deliverables owed to many gracious clients…off  I go…) and make mistakes, but I think there’s something here that’s worth exploring. Hence, the Customer as Yourself moniker and nascent series.

Too lofty an ideal for today’s customer service woes? I don’t think so. When I think of the brands, organizations (and frankly, people) I’m most loyal to, it’s in large part not because of their products but because of their service. It’s because they care about me. It’s because they care about Excellence.

I hope you’ll join me as I explore this in a series of posts over the next few weeks.